Democrats signaled they’ll reject an offer expected from President Donald Trump to extend protections for so-called Dreamers for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion in funds for border security as a way to reopen the federal government.
As well as protections for Dreamers, young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, Trump is also expected to propose extending the visas for Temporary Protection Status holders, though it’s unclear for how long, said a person familiar with Trump’s plan.
The concessions, to be outlined in a speech at 4 p.m. on Saturday, are aimed at getting Democrats back to the negotiating table in a bid to end a partial government shutdown now into its fifth week.
The proposals, similar to ones backed in the past by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat, could find support from some Democrats, though many want nothing short of citizenship for Dreamers and oppose a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as an anti-immigrant symbol.
But Durbin of Illinois said Saturday that he “cannot support the proposed offer as reported” and also doesn’t believe it can pass the Senate. “I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is opened and work to resolve all outstanding issues,” Durbin said in a statement.
A senior Democratic aide said party officials weren’t consulted on Trump’s plan and have rejected similar overtures in the past. The aide called it a non-serious offer.
A similar deal was rebuffed by Democrats in March during an earlier government funding debate, according to a Republican and Democratic aide at the time. Republican leaders and the White House offered two-and-a-half years of protections, without a path to citizenship, for DACA beneficiaries in exchange for border wall funding. Democrats rejected it then, and asked for a path to citizenship, fearing that it would give Trump his wall money while making DACA recipients eligible for deportation after a few years. The White House said no to a path to citizenship, and negotiations collapsed.
The White House has said repeatedly that the time to address the Dreamers would be after the Supreme Court Rules on whether Trump’s attempt to deport them can go forward, and has requested the issue be considered urgently. But the top U.S. court indicated on Friday that it wouldn’t hear a case on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, any time soon.
Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entered a long holiday weekend with no sign their acrimonious standoff was any closer to an end. But as the pain of the shutdown grows daily, the pressure is on to find a solution.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trump doubled down on his demand for a wall and Trump took a swipe at Pelosi as he prepared to board Marine One at the White House.
“She’s being controlled by the radical left,” Trump said, adding that he hopes she’ll come around to see “everybody knows, that walls work.”
The president also cited a new assemblage of migrants heading for the U.S. border as justification for a wall, and said he’s disappointed that “Mexico is not stopping them.” The comment echoed one made earlier on Twitter.
Although Trump has hinted that he might declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and fund the wall if other options failed, he doesn’t plan to do so on Saturday, a person familiar with the president’s thinking said on Friday.
Trump’s tweet late Friday previewing the announcement capped three days of dramatic twists in a clash between the president and the speaker -- second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence -- that’s become highly personal.
The president blocked Pelosi and a congressional delegation from visiting U.S. troops Afghanistan over the weekend, a day after she said he should postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saw Pelosi’s move to ask Trump to not appear for the State of the Union as a stunt and a capitulation to progressives in the House Democratic caucus that would only drag out the shutdown, said a person familiar with McConnell’s thinking. He encouraged the administration to offer a proposal that could attract Democratic support; the White House was already working on an alternative.
In canceling Pelosi’s military flight, Trump said he wanted her to remain in Washington to negotiate. But as of Friday, Pelosi’s office had received no White House invitation for further talks, even as Trump moved on other fronts, including scheduling a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the end of February.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on the possibility of Pelosi being invited for meetings over the weekend.
The dispute over the wall led to the impasse, which has closed nine government departments and dozens of agencies since Dec. 22. Democrats are trying to craft their own border security plan that doesn’t include new wall funding.
“What really has to happen is Nancy Pelosi needs to come back to the White House or send others here who are actually willing to converse and negotiate and come up with the money for border security,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an appearance on Fox Business Network. “Our doors are open.”
In Ankara, Turkey, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina predicted that the stalemate could be resolved soon, citing “behind the scenes” meetings he’s had with Democrats and Vice President Michael Pence. “I believe there is a deal that can be reached fairly quickly,” Graham told Bloomberg on Saturday.
Democrats have rallied around the position that only after the government opens would they be willing to talk about increased border security, a stance Durbin reiterated on Saturday: Trump and McConnell “must open the government today,” he said.
Republicans said Democrats would have to offer more than the $1.3 billion in border funds they’ve already put on the table.
Pelosi said this week that her party is willing to talk about increased border security money but not to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to build a 2,000 mile wall.
“In case I wasn’t clear, 90 percent of the drugs coming into the country come through the ports of entry. Let’s use resources to expand the ports of entry,” she told reporters. “This has to be evidence-based, not notion-mongered.”
By presenting their own proposal, Democrats can inoculate themselves against charges by Trump and his supporters that they’re in favor of open borders.
Biden Weighs In
“We’ve got to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against,” former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential challenger to Trump in 2020, said in an interview in Washington.
Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey of New York and Homeland Security subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and their staffs are seeking to draft the plan by Tuesday.
“A lot of members are asking what is our plan here,” Roybal-Allard said. “We are looking at all the options.”
Roybal-Allard said that she’d be looking at adding personnel, technology, and infrastructure at the border as well as securing ports of entry and funding more immigration judges to process backlogs of immigration cases.
Humanitarian aid for asylum-seekers and aid for Central American countries to encourage migrants to remain at home are also on the table, as is facilitating trade between the U.S. and Mexico.
Separately, to illustrate their commitment to border security, Democrats are adding border provisions to a package of six bills funding other parts of the government and set for a vote next week. Totaling about $1 billion, half the money would be used to strengthen security at ports of entry and half to fund more immigration judges.
Developing a House plan could ease the concern of moderate Democrats that the party is not doing enough to try to resolve the impasse.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and a leader of the activist group United We Dream, said she’ll “need to see the details” of Trump’s offer, “but we are deeply skeptical that this is not just another trick to hurt even more immigrant families.”
In a statement, she said Trump nixed DACA and TPS and has rejected compromises while attempting “to use our lives to get his wall and increase his deportation agents to hurt immigrants.”
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